In the second fixture of Group D today, co-hosts Ukraine finally kick off their Euro campaign against Sweden in Kiev. With France and England being the other two teams in this group, this match could shape the possible progress of Ukraine-Sweden into the knockout stage. Ukraine are making their first ever appearance in a Euro championship and with the crowd behind them, they will look to get off on a positive start against Hamren’s Sweden. Ukraine coach, Oleg Blokhin believes that the amount of pressure on his team is monumental knowing that they will be playing in front of their home crowd, but he has urged his players to relish the opportunity and rise to the occasion.
“[Hosting the tournament is] like a tornado that could throw us in an unknown direction,” said Blokhin. “These guys have to face up to it, whether they like it or not.”
Erik Hamren has galvanized the Swedish team and has made them to play attacking football ever since he took over the side after Lars Lagerback resigned after the 2010 World Cup. Sweden qualified for the Euro finals as the best runners up from their group winning eight out of ten games. Their star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will lead the Swedish side, and the 30 year old is aware of his responsibilities.
They gained automatic qualification for the Euro finals being the co-hosts for the event along with Poland. They have in their side one of the finest strikers of this generation, Andriy Shevchenko but the 35 year old is well past his prime and may not be fit enough to start today evening. Artem Milevskiy is expected to lead the squad for Blokhin, and he will have ample support from Donetsk forward Marko Devic. There is enough experience in the middle of the park as well with versatile Tymoschuk and Nazarenko who’ll try to withhold the Swedish onslaught.
They do boast of a world class striker who has had a brilliant season at AC Milan in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. PSV striker Ola Toivonen and Bolton striker Elmander, after being certified fit, will provide Hamren plenty of options up front. The experience of Melberg in defense and Kallstrom in the middle will be handy for the Swedish.
These two teams have met thrice previously and there is nothing to separate between them. Both have won once and draw the other.
Andriy Pyatov;Bohdan Butko,Yevhen Khacheridi, Taras Mikhalik,Yevhen Selin;Oleh Gusev, Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Serhiy Nazarenko,Oleksandr Aliev; Andriy Shevchenko, Artem Milesvskiy
Most of them would bet their money on France and England to progress from this group, but a win for anyone of the two teams can cause a major upset if they can notch up a win. Three points in today’s encounter can prove to be priceless as a loss would leave the other team with a mountain to climb, because the remaining two fixtures is against the ‘so called’ group favorites. But as much important as a win is going to be, it would be equally important for the teams to avoid a defeat.
The Ukrainian side have lost in their recent friendlies to Austria and Turkey, and that should in the back of the mind for the co-hosts. They have little experience of participating in a major tournament with 2006 World Cup being the only major finals they have played in. Sweden, on the other hand, are going into the match with confidence having won their last four friendlies and their taslismanic striker Ibrahimovic found the net on the last three occasions he played for Sweden. It depends on how Ukraine will deal with the pressure of the home crowd as the expectations would be enormous. But keeping in mind Sweden’s attacking prowess and Ukraine’s lack of experience on the biggest stage, I feel Sweden are going to win this. This Swedish side under Hamren are a well organized unit and can cause a major upset in this group. So for me, it would be a 2-0 victory to the Swedes.